Ovarian Cancer: Survivorship & Support

Improvements in treatments have led to an increase in the number of ovarian cancer survivors. Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose in its early stages, however, and many of these cancers are not detected until late in the course of the disease.

Even after successful initial treatment, advanced epithelial ovarian cancer frequently recurs. Memorial Sloan Kettering researchers are actively developing strategies to prolong remissions and to detect and halt recurrences early.

Follow-Up Care & Surveillance

Because ovarian cancer may recur, survivors of the disease require long-term follow-up. Patients are monitored using blood tests (to detect rising levels of the CA-125 protein), physical examinations, and imaging studies. Our Gynecologic Disease Management Team also has special programs using combinations of new drugs tailored to fight recurrent ovarian cancers.

Some women who have had ovarian cancer are at increased risk of developing breast or colon cancer, so your doctors may want to monitor you for these diseases as well on a more frequent basis.

Management of Complications

In addition to your doctors and nurses, other members of your healthcare team are available to help you and your family with the medical, emotional, social, and financial issues surrounding a diagnosis of cancer. Memorial Sloan Kettering's Gynecologic Disease Management Team includes general gynecologists and social workers who provide a full range of supportive care.

Premature Menopause

Some treatments for gynecologic cancers may cause the early onset of menopausal symptoms: irregular periods, hot flashes, drying or thinning of vaginal tissues or the bladder, loss of interest in sex, insomnia and fatigue, and memory problems.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering's Barbara White Fishman Women's Health Center, women treated for gynecologic cancers can receive counseling and treatment to help them manage the symptoms of menopause and the increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease that can occur after menopause. Physicians at the Women's Health Center care for both young women who are experiencing the early onset of menopause as a result of cancer therapy and older women who have reached menopause naturally, but whose choices for managing menopausal symptoms are limited because of their cancer histories. The Barbara White Fishman Women's Health Center is located in Memorial Sloan Kettering's Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion.

Memorial Sloan Kettering clinical researchers are currently enrolling women in a study that will assess the distress, sexual health, and quality of life experienced by women suffering from infertility related to therapy for gynecologic cancers. Doctors will use what they learn to design ways to better help women who must deal with the problem of infertility after cancer treatment.

Sexual Health

Some women find cancer therapy has affected their feelings about and desire for sex. This is an important issue for many women, because treatments for gynecologic cancers sometimes result in side effects that cause vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse, and/or reduced interest in sex. Don't be afraid to let us know if you are experiencing these problems and would like some help; we are here for you. Counselors at Memorial Sloan Kettering's Sexual Health Program at the Barbara White Fishman Women's Health Center can help you discuss and address your concerns. They can also refer you to other doctors who treat any underlying problems that may be contributing to your concerns.

Other Aspects of Survivorship

To help patients manage some of the other issues that may come up in survivorship, Memorial Sloan Kettering offers a wide range of programs for cancer survivors, including the following:

Memorial Sloan Kettering Counseling Center

Our Counseling Center offers individual and family counseling sessions to help cancer survivors and their families address the problems that they may encounter in adjusting to life after treatment.

Living Beyond Cancer

People facing the challenges of cancer survivorship can access a variety of support services through the Living Beyond Cancer section of our website. This section includes information about professionally led support groups and counseling, survivorship clinics to manage late effects of cancer and its treatment, recommendations about screening and healthy living, and specialized services to address sexual and reproductive health. We also offer a range of resources to help survivors, families, and friends better understand the complex emotional and social issues following treatment.

Additional services are offered through our Resources for Life After Cancer program, which provides a full range of educational support services, including individual and family counseling, periodic lectures or workshops to provide medical updates, and practical guidance on employment and insurance issues.

Integrative Medicine Service

Our Integrative Medicine Service is designed to enhance quality of life through healing regimens that address the body, mind, and spirit. Beneficial complementary therapies include various types of massage, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, meditation, visualization and other mind-body therapies, music therapy, and nutritional counseling, as well as classes such as yoga, t'ai chi, and chair aerobics.

Screening & Wellness

Memorial Sloan Kettering provides a number of prevention, screening, and wellness services. Information about these services, up-to-date information on cancer screening tests and guidelines, and guidance on how to stop smoking and how to follow a healthy diet can be found on our website in our Prevention & Screening section.

Rehabilitation Therapy

Following treatment for ovarian cancer, a patient may notice changes in her range of motion, strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance. Rehabilitation therapy plays an important role in helping patients improve their function and mobility following surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, physical therapists evaluate patients shortly after surgery or medical treatment and provide them with individualized exercise programs. They educate patients about the most effective, energy-conserving ways to perform simple activities without pain.

During surgery for ovarian cancer, surgeons may remove regional lymph nodes in the groin. Physical therapists at Memorial Sloan Kettering are specialized in caring for patients after lymph node dissection and in educating patients about steps they can take to prevent injury and lymphedema (a condition in which excess fluid collects in tissue and causes swelling). Some patients do develop lymphedema, and therapists here are particularly knowledgeable about this condition. They instruct patients in managing their symptoms and reducing or stabilizing the swelling; caring for the skin in the affected area; regaining mobility after surgery; and avoiding activities that tend to exacerbate the condition.

Our occupational therapists educate patients about the changes that can result from treatment and about adaptive equipment and compensatory techniques that can increase their independence during their daily routines.

See Rehabilitation for further information about our services, including appointment information.

Help for Older Patients

A diagnosis of cancer is difficult at any age, but older patients face unique challenges. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is committed to providing cancer patients aged 65 and older with the treatment, facilities, and support they need.

Memorial Sloan Kettering offers the services of a multidisciplinary geriatric team, which includes physicians, clinical nurse specialists, social workers, nutritionists, and psychiatrists, as well as members of the Palliative Medicine Service and the Integrative Medicine Service. The programs and care the team provides focus on the needs of elderly cancer patients.

For more information about our services for older patients as well as for their family and friends, visit the Help for Older Patients section of our Web site.

Access Information Through our Patient Portal

Memorial Sloan Kettering offers a secure Web site — called MYMSKCC — for patients to access personalized information about their care. If you enroll to use MYMSKCC, you can view, confirm, and keep track of appointments; access over 300 lab results; make changes to contact and insurance information; communicate with your healthcare team and other staff using secure electronic messages; and pay bills and view balances. Learn more about MYMSKCC.

To enroll in MYMSKCC, please ask a session assistant in clinic or contact your physician's office.